Bird of the Day: Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus – Miller, 1782)

Lesser Florican was on my list of TO BE PHOTOGRAPHED since quite long time….I had enjoyed them watching regularly at Kutch and some vidis in Jamnagar area, Gujarat in monsoon when I was not at all into photography.

I thought to venture out in search of this species to SAILANA Grasslands of Madhya Pradesh but it didn’t turned out quite well as there were already fellow photographers occupied the NICHE…..Although we got 2 Males and 1 Female in quite a good view for a half an hour or so at SAILANA Grasslands but nothing much to aid in photography..So quickly changed the plan to search for them in Pratapgarh District of Rajsthan which also resulted in just calls heards nothing seen. But lastly my saviour for this bird called me when we were firm to go back to Gujarat and end the trip here only….Sharad Shridhar, a great human being and amazing birder called me to inform that he is in Ajmer Dist at a place called SOKHALIYA and seen around 17 + Floricans along with many calls….That was just enough for me to change the plan again…and half an hour later we were on long, never ending, pot-hole filled drive to Ajmer. Luckily Sharad has made sure that stay and local guide is ready to show us the magnificent Lesser Floricans.

Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus) Habitat

We had only one morning to spent at SONKHALIYA grasslands…as we have already spent 3 days in Pratapgarh and Ratlam Area. Unfortunately that morning I have 4 degree temperature might be due to viral fever along with very bad back pain. Still we were in the field and just 2 Kms later we got 2 males jumping around their lek territories. We had never thought of so easy sightings thanks to Rajwendraji (Forester) and Ghogo (local guide)…and all credits goes to them along with excellent help from sharad. Next 3 hours we were sighting lesser floricans in all the fields. And we were lucky to see a Great Indian Bustard Juvenile also. In total we were lucky to sight 18 Males and 3 Females. All with good view. but we might have heard calls of many other individuals which were hidden in fields of Bajra and Mungs.

As we were late to capture them perfectly as crop have already gain enough height thus enabling Lesser Florican to hide themselves. But still views were awesome to describe here. Due to my bad back and temperature I was forced to be a Birder not a Bird Photographer which I enjoyed completely. At one of the locations I enjoyed minute details of 2 Male Lesser Florican competing for a single Female Florican for an hours or so….

Lesser Florican being famous for most marked characteristic of the species is its habit of suddenly jumping off the ground into the air above the grass, a habit that by revealing its often unsuspected presence, greatly adds to the ease with which its destruction is encompassed. This is done sometimes by the female, but the vast majority of the jumping birds are males, and as they jump they utter a guttural croak similar to that of a frog or to the noise of two sticks being hit together.

Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus)

The Lesser Florican is virtually endemic to India, although there are persistent records from Nepal and one unconfirmed historical report from Myanmar.

The Lesser Florican was described by John Frederick Miller (1759-1796) who was predominantly a Botanical artist in his 1782 “Various subjects of Natural History, wherein are delineated Birds, Animals and many curious Plants, &c.” pt6 pl.33.

The Lesser Florican has been recorded as in decline since the end of the nineteenth century; Hume and Marshall had even expressed their fear of the species going extinct within 50 years of their writing (i.e. by the 1930s). Early reports suggest that it was abundant in the nineteenth century. Fulljames stated that in Gujarat birds were “so plentiful sometimes” that they could be bought alive from the locals for next to nothing. In Kathiawar, the species was “abundant in the rains”. Its numbers have been declining for many decades, and in the process it has become much rarer and/or disappeared from many parts of its range. In Kutch, Gujarat, it was “very abundant during the rains” in the nineteenth century while in the 1990s it was thinly distributed. Before 1975 it was possible to see 30–40 individuals in a day in Kutch during the rains, but numbers dramatically dropped around this time with few birds arriving despite good rains, probably as a result of being “persecuted mercilessly” (Madansinhji of Kutch 1976).

Eupodotis indica (= Sypheotides indica) John Gould (1804–1881)

Eupodotis indica (= Sypheotides indica) John Gould (1804–1881)

The Lesser Florican is a bird of grasslands and open fields, preferring drier ungrazed plains with grass 0.5–1 m tall, generally avoiding tall grasslands in well-watered tracts, and occupying grasslands of varying shrub densities from more open formations to fairly dense.

Floricans are known to return to particular grasslands in successive years and at several sites birds have occurred every year for at least 20–30 years, suggesting that there may be a strong site-fidelity among males. However, Dharmakumarsinhji found that the same individuals do not necessarily visit the same grassland or locality every year. The species is regularly found in cultivation such as grain (including millet), cotton Gossypium and dholl close to grasslands, and in grassland habitats within forest plantations.

Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus)

Although initially thought to have a diet composed “almost exclusively of grasshoppers”, the Lesser Florican is in fact omnivorous, eating many types of invertebrate, plus various plant parts: grasshoppers, beetles, flying ants, hairy caterpillars, centipedes, worms, frogs, small lizards, crop shoots, leaves (e.g.soyabean),herbs and berries.

No nest is made, the eggs being deposited on the ground in some thin patch in a field of grass. Two to five eggs are laid, but the normal clutch consists of four. The egg is a very broad oval with only a slight difference between the two ends. The shell is stout and smooth, closely pitted with minute pores, and usually with a good deal of gloss. The ground-colour varies from clear green to darkish olive-brown ; the markings consist of cloudy streaks of brown of different shades, varying a good deal in intensity, but as a rule more marked towards the broad end. Egg size average about 1.88 by 1.59 inches.

Eggs of bustards - Indian Sporting Birds(1915) - Frank Finn (1868 - 1 October 1932)

Eggs of bustards – Indian Sporting Birds(1915) – Frank Finn (1868 – 1 October 1932)

The species operates a lekking mating system in which no pair-bond is formed. Males establish territories measuring 1–2 ha in size, clumped together in an exploded lek, with an inter-territorial distance of 200–500 m; they display from a particular spot within the territory.

Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus)

The Lesser Florican undertakes movements which appear to be governed largely by rainfall, but which remain poorly understood. The sexes are cryptically coloured during the non-breeding season, and this has always made a good understanding of the species’s movements and spatial requirements very difficult to follow. It breeds chiefly in the north-western sector of its range (Gujarat, western Madhya Pradesh, north-western Maharastra and south-eastern Rajasthan), moving there at the start of the monsoon period (June–July) and subsequently (October–November) appearing to disperse south and east into the breadth of the Indian subcontinent, where there is little clear evidence of its precise status, distribution or habitat requirements

The Lesser Florican is Endangered species as per Birdlife International Threat Catagorisation. Severe hunting pressure, particularly of males for sport and also food, precipitated its decline. More recently, declines have been caused by rapid reductions in the area of grassland owing to conversion for agriculture and overgrazing. In addition, the rapid spread of the non-native Prosopis glandulosa threatens habitat quality. Over the last two decades, unreliable monsoon rains have caused significant population fluctuations.

Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus)

I would really convey my thanks to Sharad Shridahr for timely information and help at Sonkhaliya. Along with Rajendraji and GHOGHO for excellent help in field for locating these beauties. My team mates, Bimal Patel, Yagnesh Bhatt and Yazad Engineer for their support in field. Specially Yazad to drive on those terrible roads with patience. Yagnesh for being always ready medic to help me in backpain and fever.

Gallery: Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus – Miller, 1782)

Rusty-fronted Barwing (Actinodura egertoni)
Rusty-fronted Barwing (Actinodura egertoni)
Rusty-fronted Barwing (Actinodura egertoni)

Further Reading on Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus – Miller, 1782)

  • Ali, S & S D Ripley (1980). Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan. 2 (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 196–198.
  • Anon, (1981), Lesser Florican sighted in Ratlam District by Salim Ali, Newsletter for Birdwatchers, 21:8: 2.
  • Anon, (1997), [Lesser Florican in Patancheru], Pitta, 73:: 1.
  • Baker, ECS (1929). The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Birds. Volume 6 (2 ed.). Taylor and Francis, London. pp. 68–71.
  • Baldwin, JH (1877). The large and small game of Bengal and the North-Western Provinces of India. Henry S King & Co., London. pp. 316–318.
  • BirdLife International (2009). “Sypheotides indicus”. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
  • Blanford WT (1898). The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma. Birds. 4. Taylor and Francis, London. pp. 198–200
  • Collar, NJ; AV Andreev, S Chan, MJ Crosby, S Subramanya and JA Tobias, ed (2001). Threatened Birds of Asia. BirdLife International. pp. 1368–1382.
  • David, Normand, and Michel Gosselin (2002). “The grammatical gender of avian genera”. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 122 (4): 257–282.
  • Dharmakumarsinhji KS; , (1943), Banding of Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indica) in Bhavanagar State, Kathiawar, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 44:2: 299 – 300.
  • Dharmakumarsinhji KS; , (1950), The Lesser Florican [Sypheotides indica (Miller)]: its courtship display, behaviour and habits, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 49:2: 201 – 216.
  • Dharmakumarsinhji KS; , (1952), Colour film of the Lesser Florican & Great Indian Bustard, Bulletin of the British Ornithologists Club, 72:6: 61.
  • Dharmakumarsinhji KS; , (1953), Movements of Lesser Florican [Sypheotides indica (Miller)], Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 51:4: 938.
  • Fellows K; , (1918), Occurrence of the Lesser Florican or Likh S. aurita in the Mahableshwar Hills, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 26:1: 289.
  • Finn, Frank (1915). Indian Sporting Birds. Francis Edwards, London. pp. 136–138.
  • Ganguli-Lachungpa U; , (1985), Lesser Florican in Sailana, Madhya Pradesh, Hornbill, 1985:4: 9 – 13.
  • Ganguli-Lachungpa U;Rahmani AR; , (1990), Former distribution of the Lesser Florican, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 94 – 100.
  • Ganguli-Lachungpa, U. , (1985), Lesser Florican in Sailana, Madhya Pradesh., Hornbill, 1985(4): 9 – 13.
  • Goriup PD;Karpowicz ZJ; , (1982), In search of Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indica), Tourism and Wildlife Society of India Jaipur, : 369 – 371.
  • Goriup PD;Karpowicz ZJ; , (1982), Short note on a study tour of Gujarat for the Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indica) (September 1981), Tourism and Wildlife Society of India Jaipur, : 367 – 368.
  • Goriup PD;Karpowicz ZJ; , (1985), A review of the past and present status of the Lesser Florican, Bustard Studies, 3:: 163 – 182.
  • Gupta PD;Gupta PD; , (1982), Great Indian Bustard: an approach for its preservationSurvey of the Lesser Florican in Madhya Pradesh, Tourism and Wildlife Society of India Jaipur, : 280 – 282.
  • Gupte AP; , (1984), The Lesser Florican, Newsletter for Birdwatchers, 24:9-10: 7 – 8.
  • Haribal M;Ganguli-Lachungpa U;Rahmani AR; , (1986), The Lesser Florican survey in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 42 – 50.
  • Jerdon, TC (1864). The birds of India. 3. George Wyman and Co, Calcutta. pp. 619–625.
  • K.S. Gopi Sundar , (2006), The Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica in Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh, India, INDIAN BIRDS, 2:1: .
  • Kandey GS; , (1982), Lesser Florican, Indian Forester, 108:4: 320.
  • Kinnear NB; , (1913), Lesser Florican Sypheotis aurita in the Konkan, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 22:1: 202.
  • Krishnan OG; , (1990), Sighting of the Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica (J.F. Miller) in Karunagappally, Kerala, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 87:3: 450.
  • Krys Kazmierczak; Ber van Perlo , (2000), Lesser Florican (Eupodotis indica), A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT; Yale University Press, : 104.
  • Lloyd, J. H. (1873). “On the birds of the province of kattiawar in western india.” Ibis 15(4): 397-421.
  • Magrath RD;Ridley MW;Woinarski JZ; , (1985), Status and habitat requirements of the Lesser Florican in Kathiawar, western India, Bustard Studies, 3:: 185 – 193.
  • Manakadan R;Rahmani AR; , (1999), More on the Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica at Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, Kurnool District, Andhra Pradesh, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 96:2: 314 – 316.
  • Marryat N; , (1919), Note on the occurrence of the Lesser Florican or Likh Sypheotis aurita in Bombay, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 26:2: 674.
  • O’Donel HV; , (1913), Lesser Florican Sypheotis aurita in Bhutan Duars, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 22:1: 201 – 202.
  • Pitra, Christian; Dietmar Lieckfeldt, Sylke Frahnert, Joerns Fickel (2002). “Phylogenetic Relationships and Ancestral Areas of the Bustards (Gruiformes: Otididae), Inferred from Mitochondrial DNA and Nuclear Intron Sequences”. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 23 (1): 63–74.
  • Pittie A;Hash CT;Taher SA;Kulkarni MS;Totawar V; , (1998), Sightings of Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica (J.F. Miller) from Medak, Andhra Pradesh, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 95:3: 503 – 504.
  • Prater SH; , (1935), The Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica (Miller) in the Konkan, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 38:1: 191.
  • Rahmani AR; , (1986), Lesser Florican survey in Gujarat, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 51 – 73.
  • Rahmani AR;Bhutia U;Haribal M; , (1984), The Lesser Florican in Sailana (M.P.), Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 30.
  • Rahmani AR;Manakadan R; , (1988), The Great Indian Bustard and Lesser Florican in Tamil Nadu, Blackbuck, 4:3: 3 – 8.
  • Rahmani, A. R., U. Bhutia, M. Haribal. , (1984), The Lesser Florican in Sailana (M.P.)., Bombay Natural History Society Tech. Rept., 2\84: 30 pp..
  • Ranjitsinh MK; , (1983), Occurrence of the Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indica) in Kanha National Park, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 80:3: 641.
  • Rao KJM; , (1994), Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica breeds in Andhra Pradesh, Mayura, 9:: 11.
  • Rasmussen PC & JC Anderton (2005). Birds of South Asia: The Ripley Guide. Volume 2. Smithsonian Institution & Lynx Edicions. pp. 149–150
  • Ridley, MW; RD Magrath & JCZ Woinarski (1985). “Display leap of the Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica”.J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 82 (2): 271–277.
  • RK; , (1910), Occurrence of the Lesser Florican or Likh (Sypheotis aurita) out of season, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 19:4: 995.
  • Russell, CEM (1900). Bullet and Shot in Indian forest, plain and hill. W Thacker and Co, London. pp. 383–384.
  • Salim Ali; S Dillon Ripley , (1980), No. 357. Leekh or Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indica ) (J. F. Miller) , Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan; Oxford University Press, New Delhi, Volume 2 (Megapodes to Crab Plover ): 196.
  • Sankaran R; , (1987), The Lesser florican, Sanctuary Asia, 7:1: 26 – 37.
  • Sankaran R; , (1989), The Lesser Florican 1987-1988, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 33 – 36.
  • Sankaran R; , (1990), Ecology and behaviour of the Lesser Florican, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 85 – 93.
  • Sankaran R; , (1991), Some aspects of the breeding behaviour of the Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica (J.F. Miller) and the Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis (Gmelin), , : .
  • Sankaran R; , (1994), Red data bird: Lesser florican, Newsletter for Birdwatchers, 34:1: COVERS.
  • Sankaran R; , (1994), Some aspects of the territorial system in Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica (J.F. Miller), Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 91:2: 173 – 186.
  • Sankaran R; , (1995), A fresh initiative to conserve the Lesser Florican, Oriental Bird Club Bulletin, 22:: 42 – 45.
  • Sankaran R; , (1995), The status and conservation of the Lesser FloricanConservation of the Lesser Florican, SACON Coimbatore, : 22 – 24.
  • Sankaran R; , (1996), Aerial display in the Lesser Florican, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 93:3: 401 – 410.
  • Sankaran R; , (1997), Habitat use by the Lesser Florican in a mosaic of grassland and cropland: the influence of grazing and rainfall, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 94:1: 40 – 47.
  • Sankaran R; , (1997), Nesting of the Lesser Florican during the southwest Monsoon, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 94:2: 401 – 403.
  • Sankaran R; , (1997), Status and conservation of Lesser Florican, India, Oriental Bird Club Bulletin, 26:: 7 – 9.
  • Sankaran R; , (1998), Conservation Fund in Action: Status of the Lesser Florican in the Malwa Plateau, India, Oriental Bird Club Bulletin, 27:: 11 – 12.
  • Sankaran R; , (1999), Further work on Lesser Florican, Oriental Bird Club Bulletin, 30:: 14 – 15.
  • Sankaran R;Lachungpa UG;Lachungpa G; , (1990), Survey of some wintering habitats of Lesser Florican in south India, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 112 – 116.
  • Sankaran R;Manakadan R; , (1990), Recent breeding records of the Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica (Miller) from Andhra Pradesh, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 87:2: 294 – 296.
  • Sankaran R;Rahmani AR; , (1986), Immigration chronology of the Lesser Florican at Sailana: preliminary results, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 20 – 24.
  • Sankaran R;Rahmani AR; , (1986), Study of Ecology of Certain Endangered Species of Wildlife and Their Habitats. The Lesser Florican. Annual Report No. 2 1985-86, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 41.
  • Sankaran R;Rahmani AR; , (1990), Recommendations for Lesser Florican conservation, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 117 – 124.
  • Sankaran R;Rahmani AR; , (1990), Status of the Lesser Florican in western India, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 101 – 111.
  • Sankaran R;Rahmani AR;Ganguli-Lachungpa U; , (1992), The distribution and status of the Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica (J.F. Miller) in the Indian subcontinent, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 89:2: 156 – 179.
  • Sankaran R;Rahmani AR;Sathasivam K; , (1986), Intra- and inter-specific behaviour of the Lesser FloricanBirds at Periyar Tiger Reserve. Monthly reports, Bombay Natural History Society Bombay, : 25 – 30.
  • SANKARAN, R. , (1995), A fresh initiative to conserve the Lesser Florican., Oriental Bird Club Bulletin, 22: 42 – 42.
  • Sankaran, R. , (1995), A fresh initiative to conserve the Lesser Florican., Oriental Bird Club Bulletin, 22: 42 – 45.
  • Sankaran, R., R. Manakadan. , (1990), Recent breeding records of the Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica (Miller) from Andhra Pradesh., Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, 87: 294 – 296.
  • Saxena VS;Meena BL; , (1985), Occurrence of Lesser Floricans in forest plantations in Rajasthan, India, Bustard Studies, 3:: 183 – 184.
  • Shivrajkumar MK; , (1958), Photographing the Lesser Florican, Sypheotides indica (Miller), at nest, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 55:3: 561 – 562.
  • Strip SA; , (1935), The Lesser Florican or Likh Sypheotides aurita, Journal of the Sind Natural History Society, 2:3: 17.
  • Symons HS; , (1909), Occurrence of the Lesser Florican or Likh (Sypheotis aurita) in the Konkan, Western India, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 19:1: 261.
  • Taher SA; , (1984), Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica found in Medak District, Andhra Pradesh, Mayura, 5:4: 77 – 79.
  • Thirumurthi S;Yassin MM;Pandiyan SR;Balaji S; , (1998), Occurrence of the Lesser Florican, Sypheotides indica in Tamil Nadu, Zoos’ Print, 13:4: 2.
  • Tyrrell JRJ; , (1910), Occurrence of the Lesser Florican or Likh (Sypheotis aurita) out of season, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 20:1: 227.
  • Whistler H; , (1915), The Lesser Florican (Sypheotis aurita, Lath.) in the Punjab, Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, 23:3: 581 – 582.
  • Whistler, Hugh (1949). Popular handbook of Indian birds (4 ed.). Gurney and Jackson, London. pp. 447–449.
  • Yahya HSA; , (1990), An assessment of the present distribution and population status of the Lesser Florican, Bombay Natural History Society & Oxford University Press Bombay, : 446 – 455.
  • Yule, Henry, Sir. Hobson-Jobson (1903). A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. New ed. edited by William Crooke, B.A. London. J. Murray. p. 355.